Published: April 15
Genre: young adult, romance, travel, music
After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking.
Reagan and Delilah have been best friends since elementary school. A pinch of talent and a stroke of luck changed Dee from an adorably awkward girl with a passion for country music into Lilah Montgomery, America’s sweetheart and teen sensation. Her fame and Reagan’s rebellious streak never break their infinite bond, and they are quite happy about that. For her first headline tour, Dee asks Reagan to come along, and Reagan is happy to oblige. Both friends are nursing wounds and lean on one another for strength, happiness, and support. When a tabloid photo threatens to turn the Lilah Montgomery brand upside-down, once-famed star Matt Finch joins the tour to help boost positive publicity. His presence works wonders, and the summer tour turns out to be so much more than either friend expected.
Ridiculous disclaimer first: 1) My coworkers teased me for calling this “my Taylor Swift book,” because explaining the plot and themes and beautiful friendship would take too much time when I so desperately wanted to get back to reading. 2) I’ve never understood the concept of people naming their favorite fictional boy and calling him their Book Boyfriend…until now.
Reagan and Dee’s friendship is raw, true, comfortable, unconditional, and absolutely stunning. They’re sisters, they have the same soul, they share brain waves, whatever you use to describe your dearest and closest friend(s), that’s what these two are. Reagan comes from a broken family and deals with it in rather harmful ways, but her friendship with Dee is pure and unwavering. Dee helps Reagan to her feet 100%, and supports Reagan’s effort to shape herself into something new, admirable, and better. Dee is a sweet, caring, lighthearted spirit, who works so hard to not crack under pressure and attempts to brush off the horrid tabloids and false news reports. Reagan’s known Dee for a long time, and Dee is a very grounded, family-oriented, small-town country girl living the life of famed country stars. It was wonderful to see how the two of them orbit one another, how Dee’s fame doesn’t get to her head, how Reagan doesn’t take advantage of this friendship, how these girls will stick to each other through thick and thin, across distance and time. Thank you, Lord, for writing such a beautiful friendship in this unique circumstance.
Similarly — and I don’t know how to put this into better words — I loved seeing the side of celebrity normally hidden in the shadows. It’s ridiculous to think celebrities are perfect and wonderful all the time, that they’re gods and superhuman. It’s ridiculous how quickly the public changes opinion of them when one mistake is splashed across the web, magazines, and news. Because really, celebrities are just like us, the “normal” people of “reality.” We know this, but I don’t think we truly comprehend this. Matt’s character and Reagan’s interactions with him truly flesh out this aspect of celebrity life. With Dee and Reagan, their friendship hardly changed when Dee stumbled into fame. There was a Before. Matt Finch was part of a family band as a young teen, fell out of fame, released one solo album, and disappeared. Reagan knows who he is prior to meeting him in person, but it hits her in the face when she witnesses his efforts to maintain a mask for the stage, for the photographers, and then alone with her and Dee. He’s the sweetheart boy-next-door with a talent for guitar and piano and a handsome face. He’s broken inside and communicates through music — just like Reagan communicates through photography. And even though Reagan likes the charming Celebrity Matt Finch, she loves Reality Matt Finch more. And that relationship, too, is beautiful.
Open Road Summer is a remarkable debut shedding light on the lives of celebrities backstage, when the photographers are gone and the mics are off; a stunning reflection on a healthy, strong friendship through life’s highs and lows; and a heartwarming love between two broken souls attempting to piece themselves back together.